[Edu-sig] transforming CS at Harvey Mudd

Andre Roberge andre.roberge at gmail.com
Thu Apr 5 13:44:43 CEST 2012

On Thu, Apr 5, 2012 at 2:28 AM, Mark Engelberg <mark.engelberg at gmail.com>wrote:

> On Tue, Apr 3, 2012 at 5:40 PM, David MacQuigg <macquigg at ece.arizona.edu>wrote:
>> When I read the headline "Giving Women the Access Code", I was worried
>> that it sounded like a watered-down course for women.  It's not that at
>> all.  It's the guys that need to change their attitude.
> I'm not sure that's what comes across in the article.  According to the
> article:
> "To *reduce the intimidation factor*, the course was divided into two
> sections — “gold,” for those with no prior experience, and “black” for
> everyone else. Java, a notoriously opaque programming language, was
> *replaced by a more accessible language* called Python. And the *focus of
> the course changed* to computational approaches to solving problems
> across science."
> I think it's pretty easy to interpret this article as saying that the
> women couldn't hack it until it was replaced with something light and
> fluffy with fewer sharp edges.

What an incredibly sexist and uninformed statement.   There were women "who
could hack it" before the course was changed.  They probably did not see it
as very interesting before, and the new format likely changed that.

I have seen it with my own daughter who, at a very young age, zipped
through entirely on her own half of the lessons in rur-ple in less than a
day, only to decide that she did not like programming (much to my dismay).
 10 years later, she is now starting her university studies and will have
to take a traditional programming course using Java as the only CS course
required in her program.  I am sure she will be able to "hack it" but it
will probably only reinforce her opinion of programming - whereas a course
like that offered at Harvey Mudd might have change things.

> Nowhere does it indicate that students are learning just as much, or that
> this change in approach benefits all students, not just the women.  Are we
> elevating the quality of our computer science graduates, or just lowering
> the definition of what that means?  Without addressing these questions, I
> fear this article does more harm than good.

An article like this does not teach anything about CS; it does promote it
though.  Are you saying that promoting CS does more harm than good?   ...
If so, I strongly disagree.


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